Current Spacecraft docking at the ISS. Credit: NASA.
Spring has gotten off to a good start up in Low Earth Orbit. When the Expedition 54 crew left the station on March XX, it left only three crew aboard: Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov (Roscosmos) Norishige Kanai (Japan) and Scott Tingle (NASA). They did not have long to wait. On March 23, the reinforcements arrived on Soyuz spacecraft MS-08, docking at the Russian-built Poisk module. Joining the crew was Soyuz commander Oleg Artemyev (Roscosmos), Dr. Andrew Feustet (NASA), and Rick Arnold (NASA). Comprising the Expedition 55/56 crew, they are all veterans of spaceflight with Artemyev having already visited the ISS for six months in 2014. Dr. Feustel flew aboard shuttle Atlantis in 20009 with the Hubble Servicing Mission, shuttle Endeavor's final mission in 2011 (STS-134), and already has six EVAs to his credit. He will The Expedition 56 commander at the end of Expedition 55. Astronaut Arnold flew aboard shuttle Discovery in 2009, delivering the last set of solar panels to the ISS.
MS-08 approaches the station.
Nice view of MS-08 passing below the already-docked Progress cargo spacecraft.
The last week of March was a busy one for the full crew. On March 28, ISS crewmembers closed the hatch on Progress 68P, having removed all its cargo and replaced the cargo with trash and waste items. The Progress ship undocked from the Russian-built Pirs module and was maneuvered into a lower orbit. Russian ground controllers are using the craft for some engineering tests, until they are ready to de-orbit the craft on April 25 and let it burn up over the Pacific Ocean.
Progress 68 just getting ready to undock as the ISS flies over the Atlantic Ocean.
The next day, March 29, two of NASA's astronauts went outside for a spacewalk, the fourth of the year. Astronauts Feustel and Arnold performed an EVA for a little over six hours, replacing worrisome cables on a cooling system, installing a TV camera, and placing a new communications antenna on the US Tranquility module.
Drew Feustel on his March 29 EVA. This makes 7 EVAs in his career.
With the spacewalk completed, astronauts began preparing for their next visitor. On April 2, SpaceX launched another resupply mission to the ISS using the Falcon 9 re-usable rocket and the Dragon cargo spacecraft. Mission CRS-14 brings the station a plethora of science equipment as well as consumables and regular maintenance items. Dragon reached the station and docked on April 4 to the US Harmony module. It will remain on the station until May.
Dragon CRS-14 approaches the station over the magnificent colors of our planet.
Next big event for the station crew will be the end of Expedition 55 in April.